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September 19, 2012

DA And PDs Fighting BWI And DWI



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By Kitty Merrill

Knocking on a door to deliver the terrible news of a loved one killed by a drunk driver is the worst part of a job in law enforcement, according to Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota. As a prosecutor, he spent many years consoling family members struggling to understand how a drunk driver took their family members.

"Everyone here with me today knows what I'm talking about," Spota said last Friday, speaking to an array of officers from myriad agencies. At a press conference hosted by Captain Joseph Vojvodich, sector commander at the Coast Guard Station in Shinnecock, Spota reflected on the success of a new initiative and reported its expansion.

Last summer for the first time, the DA's office created a multijurisdictional/ multi agency task force designed to address drunk driving on the East End. Most local police departments, plus the county police, park police, sheriff's department, the state police and DA's office participated in saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints. The result? "Significantly far more arrests in the five East End towns," Spota said.

In all, Spota reported 196 arrests over the summer. The busiest weekend was, surprisingly, not a holiday. On July 21 officers arrested 43 people, 32 for DWI, six for drug possession, five for unlicensed driving. Some 66 traffic violations were issued.

"Somebody once said 'Success has many fathers and failure is an orphan.' . . . We have a lot of proud fathers here behind me," Spota enthused, referencing the cadre of police chiefs and officers arrayed around him. The DA said he was "deeply gratified" for the willingness of the varied PD officials to participate in the new task force; it proves the countywide commitment to quashing drunk driving.

With the success on land under their belts, task force members are now turning their eyes to the sea. Spota announced plans to "be more aggressive" with boating while intoxicated enforcement, using the same strategies from the task force to craft a collaborative effort. He noted that this year already, the increased focus on preventing alcoholic operation resulted in 15 BWI arrests as of the end of August. That's more than the combined total of the previous three years.

The task force is funded through the DA's asset forfeiture program, and the county's STOP DWI program, which garners operational cash through federal and state grants. "This won't cost the taxpayers a nickel," Spota said.

kmerrill@indyeastend.com

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